Rookie Corner – 163 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Rookie Corner – 163

A Puzzle by Metman

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Today we have the latest puzzle from Metman. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic follows.

Welcome back to Metman.  After a lot of improvement, there are quite a few more points to comment on in this crossword.  Attention to detail is key in creating a smooth, well constructed crossword.  In a number of clues, this was missing.  However, there were some excellent clues as well I would particularly note 3d, 12d and 23a.  


5 So the French men missing English become glum (6)
SOLEMN – The SO from the clue followed by the French masculine singular for “the” and the MEN from the clue after removing (missing) the abbreviation for English.  A minor point, but the structure wordplay become definition should be wordplay becomes definition.

7 Final delivery could be outstandingly attractive (8)
KNOCKOUT – Double definition of the final delivery that floors an opponent when boxing and an informal word for describing an attractive person.

9 Shylock perhaps puts measure to the Queen to become a gemologist (8)
JEWELLER – The faith group of which Shylock was a representative example (perhaps) followed by an old measure of cloth and the abbreviation for the current queen.

10 Animal put MEP in turmoil (6)
MUPPET – An anagram (in turmoil) of PUT MEP.  This should have had a definition by example indicator as “Animal” is an example of the definition.

11 Combine glitz with one old TV series (8,4)
TWILIGHT ZONE – An anagram (combine) of GLITZ WITH ONE.  Perhaps recombine would be a better anagram indicator here.

13 Soldiers trade but it is not a pleasant experience (6)
ORDEAL – The abbreviation for Other Ranks (soldiers) and four letter word meaning to trade.

15 Iron turned to confront and obliterate (6)
EFFACE – Reverse (turned) the chemical symbol for Iron and follow this with a word meaning to confront. 

18 Mutinous seal misbehaving but this may be coincidental (12)
SIMULTANEOUS – An anagram (misbehaving) of MUTINOUS SEAL.

21 Alphabetic range held by a fool may offer more (6)
GAZUMP – The first and last letters of the alphabet inside (held by) a dialect word for a fool.  The structure wordplay may definition does not work.  The “may” could have been omitted.

22 Material better for headgear (5,3)
CLOTH CAP – Another word for fabric or material followed by a word meaning better or out do.

23 SE Dubai along with the north became nonpartisan (8)
UNBIASED – An anagram (became) of SE DUBAI N (the North).

24 Pretty Spanish male fish (6)
BONITO – Double definition.  The need to know the Spanish word for beautiful is a bit of a stretch.


1 What most servicemen are expected to get up to (8)
REVEILLE – Cryptic definition of the bugle call used to awaken servicemen.

2 United Nations to publicise disconnect (6)
UNPLUG – The abbreviation for United Nations followed by a four letter word meaning to advertise.

3 Space-time connection found in the garden (8)
WORMHOLE – Double definition of something postulated as a bridge between spatial manifolds and something left by burrowing creatures in the garden.

4 Silly Jack drops account with counterfeit peso for capital (6)
SKOPJE – An anagram (counterfeit) of JK (Jack with the AC (account) removed (drops)) PESO.  The two anagram indicators (silly and counterfeit) is unnecessary and misleading as there is only the one anagram of all of the letters.

6 Pick up a book on filigree art (8)
OPENWORK – Split 4, 4 this might imply that you pick up and read a book.

7 Artist involved with Kate is carried out on a mat (6)
KARATE – An anagram (involved) of RA (Artist) KATE.

8 Ensure a good crop with fertiliser (4)
UREA  -Remove (crop) the letters from ENSURE A GOOD.  The good in the clue is padding and could be omitted although I suspect it was included so that the answer was hidden (crop)) in ensure a good.  Perhaps the problem would have been overcome with “Ensure arable crop with fertiliser”.

12 A letter’s target (8)
OCCUPANT – Cryptic definition of who a landlord (letter) seeks.

14 Scamper to place of duty for illumination (8)
LAMPPOST – A Scottish word meaning to scamper or run followed by a word for a place where a sentry might be on duty.  Perhaps the obscure Scottish word would have been more fairly clued as “Scots scamper…” and the definition might have been better a source of illumination.

16 Release worker using no instruments (4,4)
FREE HAND – A word meaning release followed by a word meaning a worker.  The solution should be clued as (8)  As 4,4, the answer means without restraint according to Chambers.

17 Shawl covering cape is cool (6)
PLACID – A word for a Scottish piece of cloth worn over the shoulder (shawl) around (covering) the abbreviation for cape.  In a down clue, covering should be retained for A followed by B rather than A around B.

18 Potato commonly mashed with it ? How very silly (6)
STUPID – An anagram (mashed) of SPUD (potato commonly) IT.  Do not (ever) use indirect anagrams.  They are not allowed.  If you have test solvers, they would point this out – probably in big red letters.  Listen to them!

19 Early Old English to a graduate is just a small thing (6)
AMOEBA – A word meaning early followed by the abbreviation for Old English and the abbreviation for a graduate.  I don’t think that Early is directly synonymous with the required letters in the solution.

20 The thread of a story (4)
YARN – Double definition.

28 comments on “Rookie Corner – 163

  1. We did tut-tut a little over what we read as an indirect anagram in 18d but got it without too much difficulty. Our knowledge of Spanish was not equal to understanding 24a without a bit of Google help. So a few head-scratching moments with these on the way to getting it all sorted. Plenty of good clues to keep us smiling.
    Thanks Metman.

    1. Many thanks folks. Sorry about the indirect anagram – I seem to not see them at times. I will tighten up though and your comments are much appreciated.

  2. Thanks Metman, very enjoyable and managed to keep it on the easier side -i worked steadily top down. I like the elegant simple ones 6d, 12d (which took me a while to see correctly), 20d.

    I also noticed the indirect anagram and there were few more rather minor niggles which i might as well share in the hope that it’s helpful: 4d 2nd anagrind unnecessary – it makes it look like one anagram follows the other, which is not the case, there is only one anagram. 8d I prefer hiddens to be entirely contained without extra words. 10a could have a definition by example indicator. 19d not sure about early – is it? and can you substitute? 14d not sure the answer, which is a support, is really covered by the def.

    That’s all

    Great stuff and looking forward to the next one

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it Dutch though I agree the anagrind makes it all a bit clunky in 4d. With regard to 10a, I thought animal was enough as he was the wild drummer in the muppet show of yesteryear.

      1. animal is an example of the answer – it’s like using oak to define tree instead of the other way around – ideally you would use a definition by example indicator, “animal for example…” or “Perhaps animal…”

    2. I also thik you are right about the ‘early’ in 19d. I used AM to indicate early, but I suppose 1139 is not very early!

  3. By a quick tally on BD’s Index Page, I think this is Metman’s eighth Rookie puzzle, so it’s especially disappointing to find so many niggles still appearing unfortunately, which for me seriously diminished the enjoyment factor.

    There may have been less surface padding than previously, but some of the surfaces themselves, especially 9a, 15a, 18a and 14d were unconvincing at best. Like Dutch, I also thought 10a should have a definition by example indicator, and I didn’t care for the definition in 14d. “Combine” as an anagram indicator also raised eyebrows. I’m sure Metman is kicking himself over the indirect anagram.

    My ticked clues were also the more succinct ones, in my case 22a and 12d.

    My advice would be to be more ruthless with your clues, Metman, if something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t be afraid to re-draft it several times if necessary. It felt as if, in many of the clues, one was looking at the first option rather than the final draft.

    Thanks, Metman, no doubt all these niggles are frustrating you too.

    1. Not doing very well am I?. I do now go through the clues several times, but I find the more I do it the more difficult it becomes to assess the puzzle as a whole. I agree that 15a is rather indefinite and could have been a lot better but I thought 18a and 14d were good clues. I do appreciate thorough examination like this as it is a great help. I also appreciate the effort and time spent in doing it.

      1. You are definitely doing well, it’s no small achievement to produce one puzzle, let alone eight, but I feel you could be doing a lot better. Having said that, everyone progresses at different speeds, so you shouldn’t feel at all discouraged. For 18a, I’m struggling to think how a seal could be mutinous (a US Navy SEAL could I suppose, but that’s not what was intended I think) and in 14d “for illumination” isn’t the same as something that provides light.

        Perhaps you need an independent perspective, I.e. a fresh pair of eyes to go through the clues before submission? I know from personal experience that one can easily get too close to one’s own clues and often a test solver can spot things that the setter has missed or not considered.

  4. Hi Metman
    I’ve only done one of your puzzles before – the last one – and I thought this was better. It seemed more pared down, and simpler. I also found some of it a bit harder, and the harder ones turned out to be the better clues, for me. To pick a few that I liked: 5a, 1d and 6d were all simple (i.e. not overelaborate) clues, nice solutions and sensible surfaces. Thanks

  5. Hi Metman

    It’s quite a while since I have tried a Rookie Corner and being a bit rusty and also unfamiliar with the likes of 6d and 11a, and especially 24a, had to do quite a lot of revealing. I always find grids with a lot of unchecked first letters tricky, but that’s just me.

    I agree with many of the points already raised, although 10a I cannot see any dictionary meaning of the answer that matches the definition (which I assume is Animal, but perhaps I’m wrong) so assume it must be slang. I don’t get 12d either.

    7a, being picky perhaps, but the answer as applied to a final delivery (or blow) would be an adjective wouldn’t it? I don’t think the answer is itself the blow, but would be used as a noun for the result of such a blow

    4d is horrible to clue, I guess it’s what you were stuck with after else was in!

    8d, not sure what the “good” does

    16d I think this should be one word in the sense you’ve used it

    21a “May” doesn’t work for me either as a link or as part of the definition

    Like most setters I wouldn’t normally dare to use an indirect anagram, but I think this one is as obviously and fairly clued as it could be

    Clues I gave most ticks to were 13a, 18a, 22a, 23a, 1d and 17d

    1. Good morning Starhorse and thanks for your comments. I’ve explained about ‘animal’ in my reply to Silvanus. You are right about the ‘may’ in 21a. It doesn’t need to be there. Just ‘offers more’ would have been enough. As for 4d. yep, it’s clunky and is a horrible clue!

    2. 12d is delightfully subtle (i think) – the way i am reading it, two types of letter: I have received one type addressed to the answer come through my door, the other type needs the answer to make money. of course i could be making this up.
      7a the answer can be an adjective and a noun – i think we have one of each here.

  6. Sorry to say that I have to agree with the comments Silvanus made regarding surface reads and unpolished clues. Your last Rookie Corner puzzle showed considerable progress on these fronts whilst this one seemed to demonstrate something of a retrograde step.
    The other thing I noted was that, once again, there was a huge variance in difficulty factor between the clues – I’m not sure whether you’re aiming for ‘back page’ level or Toughie.

    I don’t mean to be simply a negative grumbler – I think you have some good ideas but it’s frustrating when they aren’t used to the best advantage. With that in mind I would reiterate what’s been mentioned before – I really do think you would benefit from both reducing your output and by getting other Rookie setters on board to test solve for you.

    If it’s any consolation, I was OK with both the indirect anagram at 18d and the mad drummer at 10a!

    1. I shall keep trying Jane! If I’m trying for anything it is back-page standard, Thanks for your comments.

  7. I liked it, though I did have to reveal the first letter of 3D before all became clear. I recall that there was a similar clues to 10A a little while ago, though the other way round. I made me smile then and now. Not being a setter, I’m not into dissecting each clue. My only comments would be that I thought 16D was one word and I’m not convinced by the synonym in 17D. 6D was my favorite. Thanks Metman. Keep on keeping on!

    1. Nice to hear from you EC and thank you for the comments. Chambers gives free hand as two words, but I’m sure it is often used as one word. 17d I suppose there many other words I could have used for it to parse but there you go.

  8. I’m not quite as picky as some; I thought it a pretty good effort notwithstanding the niggles.
    I always seem to be saying the same thing – keep ’em simple and smooth as possible. (Jay and Virgilius spring to mind…)
    Some nice ideas though; thanks for the tussle Metman.

  9. Lots to enjoy Metman. Nil desperandum!
    If I might use an analogy, when I trained as a carpenter back in the ‘80s, my friend was quick and rough, I was slow and perfectionist. All these years later and you couldn’t tell our work apart. You’ll get there… and who knows, I might get quicker!

  10. I’m totally with LbR – I really enjoyed this one and it was a very welcome reason to come in from the garden when I got too hot.
    There were things that I didn’t know – the first bit of 3d so I guessed and looked it up, and 24a but husband knew that. Anyway stuff that I don’t know is my problem not any crossword setter’s problem.
    Having got 4d and 21a I thought we were in for a pangram but, as usual, when I think of it it never is.
    Lots of good clues to pick from so I’ll go for 10 and 21a and 7d (for the mental image it conjured up) and 12d.
    Thanks and well done to Metman and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

  11. Had plenty of smiles while solving.
    From the space time connection in 3d to the Rufuesque 12d via the artist carried out on a mat in 7d.
    Smiled at the indirect anagram too.
    Nice clues also in 22a and 17d. Short and concise as I like them.
    Thanks Metman.

  12. Nice puzzle Metman.

    6d had me stumped for a while – I guessed the answer but I wasn’t all that convinced by the wordplay (I’m still not) and my ignorance of the definition only served to make things worse.

    MUPPET for “animal” also – I had the crossing letters so it had to be. Most of the muppets are indeed animals – but are they all? Maybe the two grumpy old geezers don’t count as actual muppets – they’re supposed to be watching the show rather than actively taking part in it. Muppetology isn’t my strong point so I’m not sure there.

    No other quibbles.

    Just one observation (not a quibble – but I bet you’ll score some from others) – very brave of you to run an indirect anagram (18d). Listener rules speak of “unobvious indirectness” needing to be avoided, and not just in anagrams. Here SPUD for “potato commonly” is so obvious and compelling that I think you are safely within that restriction. Ximenes in his “slip” notes gave “the cup that cheers” for TEA as an acceptable example but later (in his notorious book) decried them altogether – if somewhat half-heartedly: “unless there are virtually no alternatives”.

    It’s one of those things like split infinitives in English, where no published grammarian from the Fowler brothers to the present day recognises that as a solecism, even though many people run around with the belief that it is. We have nonetheless to advise youngsters not to split infinitives in job applications – you’re not showing off your precise knowledge of English grammar – you’re trying to get the job.

    Likewise in crosswords it’s best to avoid indirect anagrams if possible. Some editors may have a total ban – most seem to allow single letter feed-ins (N from “new’ etc). As noted above – the Listener appears to allow them subject to their being not “unobvious” – I wonder if they do in practice it’s horses for courses.

    Also worth noting that the broad principle doesn’t only apply to anagrams.

    Lots of smiles and other points of interest in there.
    Many thanks for the fun.

  13. Being no expert at how clues are formed I cannot comment about some of the structures however what I would say that I thought that this was just the right level for a hot Monday afternoon in the garden. Nice one metman.

  14. Thanks as always for the informative review, Prolixic. I do hope that Metman heeds the advice to get test solvers on board – it could make such a difference.

  15. I have just got in from quite a lengthy appointment and found comments from LetterboxRoy,Maize,kath,Jean-luc-Cheval, Jolly Swagman,Spindrift and Jane. I have to go out again and havn’t got the time to answer them individually. However I thank you all for your contributions which will all be digested later on. (it felt like the cavalry arriving just in time to stop me sitting in a warm bath and opening me veins!) I have anothe one sitting with BD and I hope I have not repeated the same mistakes; need to go through that one with a fine toothed comb. Many thanks to all.

  16. Forgot to say a big thankyou to prolixic for what I thought was a very fair analysis.

  17. I did enjoy this, warts and all! Well done for your continued efforts, Metman, and I hope we shall see you again in due course.

    Thanks to Prolixic for an excellent analysis. 3d took me ages, and I never did fully understand the answer. So my appreciation for the enlightenment.

    My apologies for this very late comment.

Comments are closed.